‘Marked up’ prices, server crash spoil Flipkart party

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 07, 2014 12:53 IST

The great deals and discounts that e-commerce majors such as Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and others are announcing in full-page advertisements every day this festive season may not all be for real.

India’s biggest e-commmerce company, Flipkart, in particular earned the ire of disgruntled shoppers by offering some supposedly discounted items at prices higher than what rivals such as Amazon and Snapdeal were offering.

For instance, a MacBookAir 13” was priced at Rs 56,490 on Flipkart but Snapdeal sold it for Rs 49,999.

In other instances, the company allegedly marked up the retail prices of some products and then offered “discounts” that brought the selling prices close to market rates.

“But the digital customer is smart. With so many social sites, it will be difficult to pull a wool over their eyes. They will see through any such attempt,” said Sandeep Komaravelly, senior VP (marketing) at rival Snapdeal.com.

To be fair, this practice of ramping up prices and then offering a “discount” was not true for all products, since a few discounts were genuine and lapped up by the customers.

Flipkart’s big festive season sale, The Big Billion Day, overburdened its servers, which crashed within two hours of the sale opening, angering shoppers further. “The traffic was heavy but our server did not crash,” a Flipkart spokesperson said, but refused to give any details.

Shoppers took to Twitter, Facebook and blogging to attack the company’s pricing.

A Twitter user, @Surnell, posted screenshots of what purported to show Flipkart raising prices of a product in the run-up to the sale only to slap a discount on Monday.

“We got a billion hits on our site today and achieved our 24 hour sales target of $100 million (Rs 600 crore) in gross merchandise value (industry lingo for sales) in just 10 hours.

We are truly humbled by the immense faith our customers have shown in us,” Flipkart’s promoters Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal said in a statement on Monday evening.

Underlining the fierce battle for customers among e-commerce companies, Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, bought the domain name “bigbillionday.com” (Flipkart’s name for its sale), which redirects customers to amazon.com and trolls Flipkart.

Monday’s sale brought hordes of shoppers not only to Flipkart but to other retailers as well. “We have seen a 30% jump today and over the last week, the traffic has been 10% higher than what we get very month,” Snapdeal’s Komaravelly.

Amazon spokesperson said, “Today, on the last day of our ‘Mission to Mars’ campaign, we have witnessed a 100% increase in sales since yesterday.

It is our biggest day ever and we believe it is owed to the introduction of Dhamaka deals every hour through the day and ensuring the availability of the deals advertised.”

Amazon will hold week three of the “Online Shopping Dhamaka” festive celebrations followed by the “Diwali Dhamaka Week” starting October 10.

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